#UnblockTheTruth: NTC blocking order is prior restraint
January 17, 2023

As the Quezon City Regional Trial Court begins the pre-trial proceedings for the case filed by our fellow alternative media outfit Bulatlat, we in the Altermidya Network reiterate our position: the National Telecommunications (NTC) order constitutes prior restraint and is a clear violation of the freedom of speech and of the press.

The case filed by Bulatlat seeks to overturn the June 2022 resolution issued by the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) in June 2022, following the request made by former National Security Adviser Gen. Hermogenes Esperon Jr.

As the court proceeds to investigate the NTC order, which led to the blocking of 26 websites that include Bulatlat and Pinoy Weekly, we take heed the earlier decision penned by Associate Justice Dolly Rose Bolante-Prade, that “any limitation or restriction in the exercise of one’s right, no matter the extent, and for even minimal periods of time, is a form of deprivation, and clearly, a violation of such right.”

We note that while a court resolution issued last August 2022 ordered telecommunications companies to lift the effect of the NTC order on Bulatlat’s website, another Altermidya Network member, Pinoy Weekly, remains blocked. While Pinoy Weekly also comes out in print form, and a mirror site has been established to counter the effects of the NTC blocking order, we want to emphasize how deep the repercussions of the blocking order are on the Pinoy Weekly’s function as a community press.

May the court finally and speedily void the NTC blocking order, as it not only constitutes a violation but is also an overreach on the part of the NTC and even the Anti-Terrorism Council’s powers. In fact, under Republic Act No. 11479 or the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020 and its Implementing Rules and Regulations, designation only triggers the power of the Anti-Money Laundering Council to freeze the assets of designated groups.

Even if several websites included in the blocking order are operated by designated organizations, this does not give the NTC – not any other government agency – the power to block access to their sites.

We trust that the court will be able to lift the blocking order on these websites and effectively stop the practice of weaponizing the law at the expense of our Constitutionally-guaranteed rights.

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